Classé CAP-100 integrated amplifier Four Recommendations
As much as I liked the CAP-100, I'll still recommend the Rotel, Linn, and Audio Note integrated amplifiers...but for different systems. If your budget prevents you from spending $2000 on an integrated amplifier, the Linn Majik ($1095, $1195 with phono, reviewed in December 1996, Vol.19 No.12) is a top choice. The Majik proved itself musical and involving over the long term. Just be sure to match the Majik with loudspeakers that aren't too demanding (Linn's $799 Tukan is a good choice). I spent a lot of enjoyable hours with the Majik and a pair of Tukans.
If you're really on a budget, Rotel's $499 RA-970BX (also reviewed in December '96) is an absolute steal. The Rotel has plenty of power, can drive low-impedance loudspeakers, and sounds better than a $499 integrated amplifier should. The Rotel is also a safe recommendation for nonaudiophile friends looking for an alternative to mass-market dreck. On an absolute basis, the Rotel's treble sounds a little hard and dry, but not enough to discourage anyone from buying this audiophile-quality entry-level integrated.
If you have sensitive loudspeakers of fairly high impedance, the $1995 Audio Note OTO (see March '97, Vol.20 No.3) gives you more than a taste of what the single-ended tubed experience is all about. The OTO was seductive in its ability to communicate musical expression. This 10W amplifier transcended mere "good sound," elevating the listening experience to the next level: that of feeling more of the music. The OTO had a directness of expression unmatched by even the CAP-100. The OTO must be used with the right loudspeaker; otherwise the sound will be anemic, lacking bass control and dynamic contrast. But even with the difficult-to-drive Aerial 5s, the OTO's magical, liquid, and right midrange could tempt you into not caring about those specific sonic attributes. When driving the 96dB-sensitive Infinity Compositions, the OTO had virtually none of these shortcomings. Throw in a superb phono stage ($500), and the OTO SE Phono becomes an affordable alternative to expensive single-ended separates.—Robert Harley